Described, when first released in 1933, as 'The Eighth Wonder of the World', 'King Kong' must have been as amazing in its time as 'The Incredibles', 'Shrek', and 'Toy Story' - in terms of special effects.
But there was more to 'King Kong' than just the impressive juxtapositioning of the mighty animated Kong, and his gently cradling the lovely and fragile Ann Darrow, played by Fay Wray.
Ultimately, the film is a tragic tale. A giant ape is taken out of his environment to be put in a freak show in New York, and, not surprisingly, he goes on the rampage.
Kong identifies with the vulnerability of Ms. Wray, but, when the authorities see Ms. Wray in Kong's arms they resort to type. This eventually leads to the famous ending with airplanes attacking him at the top of the Empire State Building. So came the famous quote, of beauty being the real weapon successful against Kong.
Much has been made of the scantily clad Fay as a sex object, but it could be said that womankind is shown as something vulnerable, something society should protect. In the era of Lara Croft, this aspect of the film may seem dated, but personally, as a man, both the two sides of the coin - Fay and Lara - appeal.
If Fay Wray is the film's heroine, then Kong himself still comes over as a heroic, if very tragic, figure, and if his plight could be seen as an analogy to man's mistreatment of nature in the '30s, then it's even more redolent now.
As with anything made decades ago, there will be a number of things one can pick holes in; for instance, the corny dialogue, and sometimes the varying sense of proportion regarding Kong's size, and the fact that Kong defeats some fearsome dinosaurs too easily.
But, overall, this is a film that endures, and as this film was made during the Depression, the film appealed for two major reasons then. Firstly, people at the time REALLY needed some kind of escapism, and a lot of people struggling to exist then would have identified and sympathised with Kong, who, through no real fault of his own, was crushed by the powers that be, just like a lot of men and women of that period must have felt.
The ingenious effects work by Willis H. O'Brien mean King Kong remains one of the most famous characters in film history, and this was the film which was the first really successful movie combining actors with an animated figure.
Intriguingly, two directors were given credit for this film: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, and Cooper also got a writer's credit alongside legendary writer Edgar Wallace, James Ashmore Creelman, and Ruth Rose.
Rather horribly, there was an idea at the time to make the film using real gorillas fighting real Komodo dragons!
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.